The first two weeks of Southern’s football season have featured a constantly changing cast of characters.
Eight Jaguars missed the season-opening 45-6 loss at Louisiana-Lafayette last week because they weren’t certified academically. Two of them — running back Malcolm Crockett and offensive lineman Terrell Lee — were found qualified for the home opener Saturday night, and Crockett introduced himself to the A.W. Mumford Stadium crowd by rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown in a 56-14 victory against Central Methodist.
Lee was thrust into the game unexpectedly when center Brandon Thibodeaux was injured in the first quarter, the latest in a series of developments that led to a rearranging of the offensive line. The changes didn’t seem harmful against the outmanned Eagles as the Jaguars gained 651 yards, including 395 on the ground.
“We’re an explosive offense,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “You’ve got to pick your poison against us, but it all starts with the running game. I don’t know too many teams that rush for 300 yards and lose.”
After Austin Howard seemed to grab the lead role from Deonte Shorts at quarterback in the opener, the pair might have reversed roles Saturday.
Shorts completed 10 of 18 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown and rushed seven times for 68 yards. Howard was 4-of-7 for 65 yards and threw the only Jaguars interception in two games. He ran two times for 12 yards.
“I felt much better this week,” Shorts said.
“I was more focused and had a better mindset. This was a confidence builder for me.”
Throw in senior fullback Brian McCain’s debut as a linebacker and you had further evidence that you can’t take your eyes off the roster to keep up with what’s going on in the early stages of this season.
The bottom line is the Jaguars are 1-1 after disposing of CMU, an NAIA team playing its season opener. Southern completes its nonconference schedule when it hosts Northwestern State on Saturday.
“We played up in our first game,” Odums said, “then we played down.”
The Jaguars had eight touchdowns, and six of them were scored by players who did not play for them last season. The exceptions were running back Lenard Tillery and receiver Justin Morgan, though McCain was on the team but injured last season.
Jamarcus Jarvis ran for two touchdowns, Crockett and Tyre Bracken ran for one each and Reggie Travis caught a touchdown pass. Bracken had a game-high 125 yards.
The Jaguars needed less than 90 seconds to take their first lead of the season as Crockett ended the game’s first possession with a 5-yard touchdown run. The Eagles answered right away as Max Holmes threw a 49-yard touchdown to Jamall Williams.
Shorts’ 17-yard touchdown pass to Travis started a string of 29 unanswered points by Southern. A CMU snap through the end zone from punt formation yielded a safety, Jarvis ran 2 yards for a touchdown and McCain and Tillery each scored from a yard out.
Keenan Honroe returned the kickoff after Tillery’s touchdown 88 yards for a score, leaving the Jaguars with a 36-14 halftime lead.
Jarvis’ 1-yard touchdown run was the only score in the third quarter, and Howard threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Justin Morgan on the first play of the fourth to increase the lead to 50-14. Southern’s next possession ended with a 63-yard touchdown run by Bracken.
“At halftime, I wasn’t real pleased,” Odums said. “The first half was like a roller coaster. We made a mistake early and allowed them to tie us at 7, but we regrouped defensively.”
Southern held CMU to 163 yards — 81 rushing and 82 passing.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.